Respiration is one of the essential functions of life. To put it simply, if we cannot breathe, then we cannot live. So what happens when those who have trouble breathing require care? Chances are, a respiratory therapist will treat them at some point. Respiratory therapists are much needed in today’s healthcare industry and are paid an annual salary. In this guide, we will dive much deeper into this career than just the average respiratory therapist salary.
We will be exploring the top 3 current respiratory jobs, the regions with the highest paying respiratory therapist jobs, and how their salary compares to similar medical careers. Before we get into this, however, it’s important to get a bit of background information on the career itself.
What Is a Respiratory Therapist?
Respiratory therapists (RTs) provide care to patients with heart and lung conditions which cause them to have problems breathing. Conditions that respiratory therapists usually treat include asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, sleep apnea, and cystic fibrosis. In some cases, RTs assist in the treatment of patients suffering from a stroke, heart attack, shock, or drowning.
Work Environment and Schedule
Around 81% of respiratory therapists work in local, state, or federal hospitals. The remainder work in environments such as nursing care facilities and physician offices. Respiratory therapists tend to work long hours with most of their shift spent on their feet. During their shift, respiratory therapists will work with registered nurses, medical assistants, physicians, and surgeons. The majority of respiratory therapist salary jobs are full-time. Because they work in medical facilities with patients who can require care at any time, RTs can work days, nights, weekends, and national holidays.
Respiratory therapists play important parts in the health-care setting. It’s not an easy job and a respiratory therapist must be able to do the following:
How Much Do They Make?
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average respiratory therapist salary is around $58,000 per year. The 10% lowest-paid RTs make around $42,000 per year and the highest-paid 10% of respiratory therapists make around $80,000 per year.
Many factors may go into determining a respiratory therapist’s salary including the region they work in and the environment they work in. Some RT environments require more specialized care which tend to pay a higher salary.
Are Respiratory Therapists in Demand?
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there are over 15 million Americans currently suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This is the scientific term for those who have conditions which inhibit or restrict their breathing. By the year 2020, there will be a high percentage of the population that will be over the age of 55. Older individuals are more susceptible to COPD.
Given this data, it is safe to assume there will be a high demand for respiratory therapists in the coming years. In fact, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the demand for RTs will grow by 23% through the year 2026. This equates to over 30,000 new respiratory therapist salary jobs.
How Do I Become One?
At the bare minimum, you must have an associate’s degree to work as a respiratory therapist. However, most employers prefer candidates with a bachelor’s. Educational programs offered include those at colleges, universities, and the US Armed Forces. In order to become licensed, the educational program must be accredited by Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care. High school students who are interested in becoming a respiratory therapist should focus on taking classes in health, math, biology, physics, and chemistry.
Respiratory therapists are required to be licensed in all 50 states except Alaska. Exact licensure requirements will vary from state to state. Most states require graduates to pass a certification exam. The National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) is the main certifying body in the field. The NBRC classifies respiratory therapists into two levels of certification: Certified Respiratory Therapist and Registered Respiratory Therapist.
Respiratory Therapist Salary and Job Information
Now that we have a better understanding of what a respiratory therapist does and how to become one, we can now take a look at the job and respiratory therapist salary information. As mentioned earlier, the average salary for an RT is around $58,000 per year. It’s important to understand that this is not a standard salary, however. Many factors go into determining a respiratory therapist salary. The two main factors are experience and location. Some RT careers involve more special skills and some regions pay more for respiratory therapists. Let’s check out the regions with the highest annual salary.
The top 5 highest-paying cities for respiratory therapists are all located in California. The highest-paying city for respiratory therapists is Santa Cruz, with a respiratory therapist salary of $104,230. Next in rank is San Francisco, with a salary of $97,210. Third on the list is the city of Vallejo with a figure of $91,880.
Fourth and fifth on the list are the cities of San Rafael and Sacramento with annual salaries of $90,030 and $89,130, respectively. One thing to keep in mind about this data is that California has a higher cost of living than most regions in the United States, which can partially explain the abnormally high respiratory therapist salary.
As you guessed, the highest-paying state for respiratory therapists is California with an average salary of $78,820 per year. Second in the United States is Nevada with an average annual salary of $72,630. New Jersey comes in at third on the list with an average salary of $71,940. Fourth and fifth on the list are the states of Alaska and New York with average annual salaries of $71,820 and $71,100, respectively. Based on a lower cost of living than California, Nevada would seem to be the state where you can actually make and save the most money working as a respiratory therapist, with Alaska, New York, and New Jersey trailing not too far behind.
Let’s check out how respiratory therapist salaries compare to other similar jobs in the medical industry. These similar careers all take about the same level of education and skill level as a respiratory therapist. Physical therapist assistants and radiologic technologists make similar annual salaries to respiratory therapists with figures of $56,850 and $59,260, respectively. However, diagnostic medical sonographers and registered nurses tend to make much more than the average respiratory therapist with average annual salaries of $71,750 and $72,180, respectively.
Now, let’s take a look at the current top 3 respiratory therapist jobs that are available. First on the list is a job opening for a respiratory therapist at Inova in Falls Church, Virginia. They are seeking a respiratory therapist 3 which is an RT with more training and experience. However, the description does state that Inova will consider a respiratory therapist with less experience. Inova is offering this job for a pay rate of $25 to $35 per hour.
The second job we will look at is for a NICU respiratory therapist for the night shift at Renown Health in Reno, Nevada. An RT who works in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, or NICU, takes care of infants who have trouble breathing. This job is paying $21 to $30 per hour depending on experience The last respiratory therapist job we will look at is for a position at the Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup, Washington. This job is offering an hourly rate of $27 to $37 per hour based on experience.
Respiratory Therapist Salary: To Sum It All Up
Respiratory therapists can make more or less than average annual salary based on region and experience. It takes a college degree in order to become one. You also have to be licensed in your state (except Alaska), to work as a respiratory therapist.
Overall, it takes a driven personality that can handle the stress to work as a successful respiratory therapist. They work long hours and can work at any hour of the day. Respiratory therapists have a great responsibility in our society and deserve an adequate salary.